Silver Linings: The worst camping trip

    I have no idea where the phrase came from, but we have all heard it at some point. Every cloud has a silver lining. Which means that there is something good in everything.

EVERYTHING!

 No matter how bad whatever it was, something good can and will come out of it.

    As a fisherman and lover of the outdoors I have had my fair share of “probably won’t but could happens.”

   Whenever we venture out of the security of our little safe places in the world and head into the unknowns and wilderness, we are usually unaware of all the things that could go wrong.

   We try to plan ahead and minimize the “If it does” moments. The old boy scout motto “Always be prepared” is lodged somewhere deep in our subconscious. Sometimes I think our subconscious might be playing jokes on us though. Purposely hiding something that it knows not only can happen but, in all likelihood, WILL happen.

    And not just if, but when disaster will strike too. The only psychic part of my brain is the part that knows when I failed to see it coming but “it “did and kept quiet to have a laugh. The part that could probably pick out the winning lottery numbers every time but keeps quiet because it likes to watch me try and overcome the obstacle it saw coming. Just waiting for me to say, “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

       This is just one of my many “silver lining trips". One of those times I not only didn’t see it coming but had no idea that much would come anyway. Instead of listening to that little voice, I did the opposite. 

  I was going on a weekend camping trip up the river. Which river doesn’t matter, and it’s actually better you don’t know? I wouldn't want to blemish its good name.

    I had everything packed for 3 days in the wild places. All the food, water, gear, equipment, and things for the "probably won't but could happens" I would need and even had a great weather report. Clear skies for at least a week. It was going to be wonderful. 

  That was my first mistake.

   I got up the river and to the spot I was going to camp. The air was warm, the sky was clear, the fish were already striking some unfortunates on the top of the water, all was good, and I started to make camp.

   I got the boat unloaded and everything situated and was starting to put up the tent.

  This was going to be a great weekend. 

   As I was putting up the poles for the tent, I noticed the sky was getting a little cloudy and seemed like it might rain later.

    I stopped and immediately packed everything back up and was in the boat and headed home within minutes 

is what I should have done.

   I did the opposite

"I’m almost done with the tent. It won’t be that bad. " I wish I would have never said this out loud.

Mother Nature was listening.  It would be the adventure I would never forget.

No matter how much I might want to.

   I managed to get the tent up before the bottom fell out. No big deal I’ll sit inside and get ready for the awesome fishing I’ll do after this. Fish love to bite after a storm. That’ll be the silver lining to this. I’ll catch a lot of fish. 

    This too was wrong. 

    Mother Nature had already decided I was not going to catch the first thing on this trip. I wasn’t even going to make a cast. Oh no, she had another plan.

“How wonderful.”

   As the hours and rain kept rolling by, I became increasingly bored and hungry. So, I decided to make a little dinner. A sterno and a pot and I’ll heat up something in the tent. Sounded like another great idea.

    Optimism.

    It seems in my haste to get going I didn’t bring any sterno, or propane, or even a grate. I brought liter fluid and a lighter. It was at that moment I remembered thinking I was going to make a bonfire and cook since the weather was going to be so nice.

    Was I discouraged? 

I should have been. 

This would have been another great time to throw in the towel and head home.

    I did the opposite.

   Again.

  You know those people who fall into smelly stuff and come out smelling like a rose. It would have been a good idea to have brought a couple of them with me.

Guess what I had done?

    I was alone. Wet, cold, hungry, most of my stuff was drenched, I was shivering, and had not caught any fish. 

    Other than that, my spirits were pretty high. So, I decided I would eat something cold or try to heat up an MRE and call it a day.

   This is when things started to go wrong.

Again.

   I love the outdoors. I love fishing, I love camping, I love hiking. I'm not crazy about mud, but it seems it loves me. I was about to spend the next day becoming best friends with more mud than I had ever known was possible.

    I had my phone and a flashlight to see in the dark. The general rule of thumb is 3 light sources. I have known this for a long time but had never needed more than one. 

Until now.

    The storm had decided that my tent would look better with a couple of new branches in front of it. The kind that had more than likely been blown off their trees just minutes before placing them purposely outside my tent.

   Ol mother nature had failed to mention her remodeling plans and went ahead with the project anyway.

    I thought “How nice mother nature is getting me firewood.” 

   I was joking, the language in my head was starting to sound like someone else. For every two branches I did see, there was one I didn’t, but it saw me.

  More accurately it saw my leg and gripped it like a vice and began to sling me around like a professional wrestler. I think his name was the Tornado.

    It felt like it anyway.

  It stopped beating me senseless just in time for me to see the light of my phone go spinning wildly up in the air.

   This is when it went into slow motion.

  The whole thing was kind of beautiful. It looked like a really close falling star shooting across the sky. On again, off again, on again, as it spun through the heavens. I even forgot I was being beaten to death by the Tornado of pro wrestling.

   The word “NOOOOOOOOO” leapt out of my mouth as if someone else was saying it really slowly.

” This is wonderful. I have never seen anything so beautiful." It got very peaceful after that. Like Heaven.

  When I woke up, the Tornado was worn out. I was half drowned. Covered in mud. In the dark. My phone had disappeared somewhere under who knows what, and it was still pouring rain.

   It was at this time that I decided to call the quits and go home,

is what I should have done.

   I did the opposite.

    Again.

   But in all fairness at this point there really was no way of going home. I couldn’t even see well enough to find my tent, much less the boat. Home was a pipe dream and in all likely hood was just another hallucination from my concussion too. For a brief second, I felt despair.

   But eventually it will change, and I will catch some fish, and all will be well. Forever the optimist.

   After thinking this I’m surprised mother nature didn’t hit me with another stick for being so hardheaded and optimistic. She gave me every chance to leave.

I did the opposite.

Again, 

and again!

  I decided it was time to crawl around and find the tent. Walking out of this with any dignity had come and gone by this point. 

Walking period had come and gone by this point. 

   I’m not too proud to admit when I’m beat.

Now. 

   I was a different man going into this. I was a confident, self-reliant, outdoors enthusiast who thought he could handle any of the “probably won't but could happens.” 

This was different.

   Nobody plans on this. Nobody could possibly see this coming. Seriously, a professional wrestler named the Tornado just kicked my butt, stole my phone, and left me face down in mud. No. Nobody plans on this. It hasn’t even stopped raining. 

   After what seemed like a week and a day, I finally felt the back of my tent. More precisely, I felt one of my stakes as it very gently scraped some more of my dignity away and left me shrieking like a little girl.

    “This is wonderful, I found the tent.” Is what I like to pretend I thought. I won't admit to using the language that was passing through my head by now.

  By the time I made it in the tent I was a bit deranged. Maybe from the adrenaline wearing off, or blood loss, or the concussion from the Tornado, but I sort of remember thinking, "I'm far enough."

“Sweet dreams to me. When I wake up, I’ll catch some fish and laugh about this.”

Optimist.

Mother nature had decided otherwise.

    What I awoke to can only be described as post-apocalyptic.

   I honestly thought I might have actually been the lucky person who made it through an extinction event. One right up there with whatever killed the dinosaurs.

    My tent, God rest its soul, had put up a heck of a fight. Most of it was just torn to shreds. Traces of the Tornado were all around: leaves, little branches, bigger branches, more mud.

    At some point during my hibernation, he decided we would have a rematch and when I wouldn’t respond he took it out on my tent.

   That brave and fearless canvas did not fare any better against the Tornado than I did. By the time he was done the only thing my tent was capable of doing was holding mud nice and cozy all over my shivering, bloody, concussed, starving body. It looked like I had been sleeping in a person sized sandbag that had been filled with mud and a flashlight possibly hidden somewhere inside. Which is exactly what it had become.

I never found out what had happened to the flashlight. 

    There was a moment of silence. 

Not out of mourning but I had just run out of things to say.

Nobody plans on this. Not this. It’s still raining.

  “This is wonderful, the rain is washing off all the mud.”

When I look back through my eternal optimistic lenses, this is what I like to pretend I was thinking. I still won't admit to thinking the language I was becoming accustomed to by this point.

   Luckily the sun was up. Somewhere behind all those clouds the sun is shining. But to be honest this might as well have been the cat in the box thing from psychology. I believe it is there so it must be thing.

Mother nature had another idea.

    So, I sat next to the biggest tree I could find and held the biggest part of what was left of my tent, over my head and waited for the rain to stop. I still hadn’t had anything to eat or drink and was probably a little hypothermic and concussed, bleeding, and who knows what else by then.

    “This is wonderful, mother nature is providing me with drinking water.” I kept thinking this as I lay my head back to drink the rain. “The mud just adds to the flavor.”

Optimism.

  I’m not exactly a person who gives up easily and I never cry over anything. But if it hadn’t been for all the rain I might have been crying at this point. I distinctly remember hearing laughter. So, I must have been. Mother nature probably thought she had finally beaten me. She thought surely, he will head back now.

I did the opposite.

Again.

   I’m here, nothing has gone right, I have to be able to catch a few fish. That’s how it will all even out. Silver linings right. That's how it works, right?

Nope.

   Between me and the boat was a beautiful little clearing with oak trees on both sides and soft rolling hills covered in lush green grass. It was like a scene from Heaven. 

    When I got there that’s what it looked like. Now it was more like a scene from a different place. One I try to live in a way that I never end up in. 

But here I was. 

And what do I decide to do?

 That’s right.

 Go fishing!

Forever the optimist.

    So, I headed down toward the boat, constantly on the lookout for the Tornado and anything else that might want to take me out. Again.

    I should have paid more attention to my footing.

    I noticed a very low sounding rumbling noise and quickly realized it was coming from me. The beautiful clearing had become a landslide of water and mud, my stuff, and me.

“This is wonderful, I’ll get to the boat even quicker.” Optimistic till the end.

In hindsight. 

 Pardon the language I’m not using now. It was bad. Like a sailor. That bad.

  Within seconds I was going over the bank and into the river. I had probably lost a bit more skin and there was no way I wasn’t bleeding from everything at this point.

   “Wonderful, the river will wash off all the mud and drop me off at the boat.”

But I didn’t stop there.

    The excess water from the torrential downpour had caused the river’s current to be a little more than I expected.

I say little.

Optimist.

At the speed I was going I would probably make it back to the dock in an hour or so. It took me two in the boat to get there. 

   Then I stopped.

    “This is wonderful, the Tornado has come to my rescue and is guiding me gently to the bank.”

Forever the optimist, this is how I remember it.

   I think it looked like the scene from Predator when Arnold is covered in mud and hiding from the alien on the bank, all you can see are his eyes. That was me, gripping the bank for dear life, with the Tornado ever so gently helping me stay there. 

    This is when I started laughing. 

Nobody plans on this. Not this. It’s still raining.

   So, there I was, beaten, bloody, muddy, hungry, not thirsty, I drank half of the storm trying to get in the boat, delirious, and getting beat up ever so gently by the Tornado.

Again.

I actually would have packed it up and left then. But that option had come and gone too. Mother nature had other ideas.

  Class was in session, and I was her only student. 

Yes MA'AM. 

 

    Then I heard an almost forgotten sound. Something so soothing I thought I had gone to heaven.

I didn’t even mind the tornado ever so gently kicking my butt as I was drowning in my own optimism.

   Then I heard it again.

   “That’s not right. Generally, when you hallucinate it doesn’t repeat itself.” 

   “How wonderful, I will have someone to talk to as I pass on to heaven, even if it is only an imaginary friend.”

   Then it came again, that voice from Heaven.

“Do you need assistance?”

It was the conservation people.

   I thought the idea of asking me any questions about needing help must have been some form of joke at that point. I know they could see me.

"Nooooo", I grumbled.

I got it under control!

Forever the optimist and a bit sarcastic at this point, or just still trying to convince myself it wasn't as bad as it looked.

It was worse actually.

   "We saw a bunch of your gear floating down the river and came to see if you needed help."

Silver linings?

    I listen to that little voice now and leave at the first sign of trouble. Mother Nature only had to beat me with a stick once.

Lesson learned. 

Silver linings.

When God tells you something, LISTEN!

In this case, I did the opposite but learned a valuable lesson. The hard way. 

Enjoy the outdoors. Life is out here!

written by Benjamin Evans